Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Haedong Yonggungsa (해동용궁사) is unique among Busan’s Buddhist temples in that it lies not in the mountains, but on the seafront. It was founded in 1376, during the Goryeo Dynasty, and completely destroyed during the Japanese invasions. The current construction dates from the 1970s, but the temple has remained a major center of worship. In fact, I can’t imagine it being any more popular.
Of course, we were visiting on the day before Buddha’s birthday, when legions of the faithful had shown up. This was possibly the only time in my life I’ve waited in a 45-minute line to enter a place of worship. But it was a sunny morning, and the queue gave us time to take in the beauty of the temple from afar. Haedong Yonggungsa looks out over the sea, with tall dagobas erected on the rock above, and has as its centerpiece a three-story pagoda protected by four lions. Inside the pagoda are bone relics brought to Korea by a Sri Lankan monk… a neat connection between our previous and current homes.
According to the temple’s website, its motto is “At least one of your wishes will be answered here through your heartful prayers.” That’s hopeful, and at least more optimistic than the slogans I grew up with like, “Repent, ye sinner”. The Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, thought to reside in the sea, is the main deity at Haedong Yonggungsa. Apparently, she’s appeared to people here, and saying her name over and over will result in good fortune.
It was a little hard to appreciate all the details of the temple, due to the celebrations underway. Lanterns were strung up everywhere, hiding from view anything higher than a couple meters, including a statue of the mercy goddess. And man, do Koreans love taking photographs. You couldn’t move an inch without accidentally intruding in someone else’s frame. It was a little amusing to hear Jürgen — who never stops taking pictures — complain about other people doing the same.
We might have to come back after the birthday celebrations are over. The temple looks out eastward over the sea, and the sunrise must be spectacular.
We're Jürgen and Mike, from Germany and the USA. Born wanderers, we love learning about new cultures and have decided to see the world... slowly. Always being tourists might get lame, but eternal newcomers? We can live with that. So, our plan is to move to an interesting new city, once every three months. About 91 days.
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